Saturday, March 8, 2014

Starting to "Click"

I have been so excited about the way a few small changes can totally transform the way my classroom works.  I love reading and learning about new methods and ways of becoming a more effective teacher.  Over the summer I read Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer, and I was hooked.  It sounded amazing and exactly how I wanted my classroom to run.  
After going through the PD of our new curriculum, I didn't know how it was going to work out.  One of my biggest flaws especially with teaching is if I don't think I am doing something perfectly, I feel like I'm wasting precious time with my students who for the most part struggle with math.  So I have been floundering with the workshop model because I thought I should stick with my usual way until I learn the new curriculum. 
So the way I've always taught is the "I do, we do, you do" model.  Even when I incorporated some flipping, my videos were still the "I do's" and then we did the other two parts in class.  I've never given enough struggle time and I think that is the missing link, no matter what method you use to give it.
With that as my goal, the first thing I did was cut my "I do"  or mini lesson way down.  I began to only model a very basic example of the main concept, point out important vocabulary, or model my thinking process-not necessarily a step by step of how to solve each problem.  

Next I set them out to read and discuss the worked out examples in the textbook.  The most important thing I've done here is I give them guided questions that they need to answer while they are reading the examples and they are to use them for their discussion.  The greatest thing is that I can see after two weeks, some of the kids are starting to ask their own great questions that I didn't write out!  See in the past if I asked them to do any type of pair/share or discussion, they would spend about a minute saying "what did you get? I got this" and think that was all they had to do.  The questions are the key!   On a side note, my students have no clue how to read a math book and use it as a tool.  I can't tell you how many times they won't turn in their homework because they say they don't know how to do it and I ask them "well why didn't you look at the example in your textbook?" and they look at me like I have 3 heads.  I'm hoping they will also start learning how to use this tool to help them. 

Next I have them work together on 3-5 practice problems this is where they start to struggle and I walk around and check to see if they are working through their struggle. Once they are successful with these problems I release them to independent work.  When everyone has finished the 3-5 practice problems I stop them and we share out. I purposely let some of the errors be shared so we can discuss it and the kids are already getting used to that!  

I know I am way more excited about this than its probably worth, but that's because I can't really articulate the way the culture has changed in room from just these really small changes.  But I am liking what I see and even though we haven't tested on the new chapter yet, the way the kids are talking about the content is definitely different than they was they did before.
I know that things take time, but I can really see how I am going to keep working towards the workshop model and feel like even though its not perfect right now, its going to keep getting better and better.